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  • Writer's pictureLehmann Film Productions

Documenting Performances At "The Northside Town Hall" Community and Cultural Center

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

Lehmann Film Productions has documented a few events for The Northside Town Hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The following text is taken from their website here:

Northside Town Hall Community and Cultural Center (NTHCCC) is working to renovate and operate the former Engine Co. 212 Firehouse for Community activity. NTHCCC will provide a permanent home to neighborhood social justice organizations for continued advocacy and direct services to Williamsburg and Greenpoint. NTHCCC fosters civic and cultural engagement with original arts programming and community gatherings.

Located in Brooklyn’s Northside section of Williamsburg, the former firehouse will become home to both Neighbors Allied for Good Growth (NAG) and The People’s Firehouse (PFI). The two organizations have historically served with dedicated action and activism while continually shaping North Brooklyn to benefit the diverse and vibrant community. NAG is a volunteer-based community planning and environmental justice organization that has been performing grassroots organizing, advocacy and outreach/education to the North Brooklyn waterfront community of Williamsburg/Greenpoint since 1994. PFI has provided 34 years of community leadership in the fight and preservation of EC 212 and offers a broad spectrum of advocacy and affordable housing development, diverse social and legal tenant services, education and vocational training and energy conservation programs to the residents of the Williamsburg/Greenpoint neighborhoods. The Northside Town Hall Community and Cultural Center (NTHCCC) board was officially formed on May 20, 2009, and the organization was granted tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit status the following year.

The strengths and skills of NAG and PFI complement each other, and together will provide a strong set of on-site services in organizing and advocating for the community. PFI will continue to operate programs in housing/property management, tenant advocacy, energy efficiency and home weatherization, fire prevention assistance, workforce development services, computer training, and English as a Second Language. NAG will operate ongoing programs in the areas of community planning and development, preserving local jobs, improving the State Park (whose establishment NAG led), fighting against low-income tenant displacement and harassment, assuring that local construction is performed safely and legally, and other issues to help preserve and enhance the community.

The two organizations bring a unique legacy of community leadership to the redevelopment of the site. With the history of both long-term engagement with the Engine 212 building itself and bridge-building between community advocacy/service groups and local cultural organizations the partnership will work to preserve the site's character, highlighting it's historical and emerging community services.

In developing the cultural component of the site NTHCCC will work collectively with community-based arts and cultural organizations to develop. NTHCCC will foster civic and cultural engagement with original arts programming, community gatherings, and by providing affordable space for artists and organizations with a focus on, but not limited to, local art and activism leading to community success.

Residents of North Brooklyn have a storied history of fighting for their neighborhood. They’ve fought the largest public and private nightmare projects imaginable: a massive wastewater treatment plant, a radioactive storage facility, power plants, garbage transfer stations and unrestrained development. But perhaps the most meaningful fight for residents of Greenpoint and Williamsburg was over a relatively small piece of their neighborhood.

In 1975, New York City was deep in debt and making unimaginable cuts. Among them was Engine 212, a three-story firehouse in Williamsburg that was a small bit of rare support from a City that it felt had largely abandoned them. When residents found out the firehouse was being closed, they came in hundreds to its defense and surrounded the building. Some snuck in, bags packed, and stayed for sixteen months. In 1977, the City gave in and re-opened the neighborhood firehouse. Thirty-five years later, the meaning and inspiration of that moment continues to unite North Brooklyn in a new time of need.

North Brooklyn has been through a lot in the last decade. Rapid change had begun even before the rezoning of the area in 2005—and has since brought both success and stress to our neighborhood. Throughout this period, long-time residents and new arrivals often sparred over the direction, character, and management of Greenpoint and Williamsburg. But residents of North Brooklyn have made much progress together, despite the differences. And there is no better symbol for that effort than the Northside Town Hall project.

When it was closed for good several years ago, the community united behind a proposal that the firehouse become a town hall, led by two of the most respected organizations in our neighborhood: The People’s Firehouse and Neighbors Allied for Good Growth. Although both organizations have been around for some time, they each represent different sections of the community. The People’s Firehouse is led by a board of mainly long-time residents—some of whom have local roots that go back generations. NAG also has long-time residents on its board, but its membership is decidedly newer to the area.

The combination gives us input from all corners of the community, and has already led to lasting accomplishments for the neighborhood. We worked together to start the popular annual “Taste Greenpoint-Williamsburg” fundraiser for the Town Hall, attended by thousands of New Yorkers each year. The event, its sister “Drink Greenpoint-Williamsburg”, and the generous support of our elected officials and neighbors have brought the Town Hall close to its fundraising goal in just a few years.

But we are most proud that our project has brought normally separate parts of our community together. In addition to diverse support within the community, it also has vociferous support from each of our local elected officials, as well as unanimous support by our community board.

Our dream is not yet realized—but, so far, we would like to think those brave souls who occupied the firehouse in 1975 would be proud.

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